It is highly doubtful that Donald Trump will be impeached and removed from office during his first term as president. It is also becoming more doubtful that this grandiose businessman-turned-politician will leave office amicably, should he not be re-elected.
Since assuming office, Trump has encouraged, if not demanded, that his Republican base hold every institution of American democracy—the press, the courts, and the Constitution—in utter and complete disregard. His message? Institutions, establishments, and traditions that disagree with his aims have no legitimate role to play in our democratic system of government.
The Trump White House has been disdainful and contemptuous of the constitutional powers granted to Congress. Though the law clearly states that Congress can demand anyone’s tax returns, Trump refuses to comply. He stonewalls Congressional subpoenas and refuses to allow Congress to question present and former administration officials, including cabinet secretaries.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, confidant, and partner-in-crime, delivered this grave warning during Congressional hearings last winter: Should the president not get his way in the 2020 election, according to Cohen, the future of American democracy is at risk.
“Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 there will never be a peaceful transition of power,” Cohen said.
Initially disregarded, Cohen’s sentiments are gaining ground among former government leaders, intelligence experts, pundits, and historians. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in an interview with The New York Times, emphatically stated that she is “preparing for just that situation.”
Trump, himself, is feeding this idea, saying that he had the first two years of his presidency “stolen” from him by the Russia investigation.
I am coming to believe that If Trump loses the popular vote in 2020 by less than a million votes, along with a near tie in the electoral college, there is a good chance that we may wake up to Trump tweeting, “FRAUD!” on the morning after the election. Fox News—the trumpet of discontent—whose commentators often act more allegiant to Rupert Murdoch’s capriciousness than the rule of law, will quickly fall in line behind Trump’s declaration and enthusiastically fan the flames of discord.
Trump will be on Fox News and Twitter every day, saying that the election was stolen from him and that the Democrat who beat him is not the true president-elect. And the GOP base, having, in recent years, come to believe that no Democrat can ever be legitimate, will stand behind Trump’s obstruction.
This scenario is not entirely new. Trump has shown his eagerness to undermine democracy, calling for “a revolution in this country” immediately after President Obama was declared the winner of his 2012 reelection contest against Republican Mitt Romney.
Pushing racist conspiracy theories is one thing; calling an election (Romney vs Obama) “a total sham and a travesty” is another.
There were widespread fears in the media and Democratic circles in the fall of 2016, that Trump would contest the election results if he lost. Spouting conspiracy theories completely devoid of evidence, Trump routinely said things like, “If the election is rigged, I would not be surprised.” In August 2016, when polls indicated that Hillary Clinton was ahead by 10 points in Pennsylvania, Trump claimed at rallies that he could only lose “if cheating goes on.”
Trump uses his bully pulpit to constantly raise fraudulent concerns regarding the electoral process. After Republicans lost 40 seats and control of the House of Representatives last November, Trump accused Democrats of rigging the election. The spreading of false allegations, along with his use of flaming rhetoric, not only breeds discontent but increases the likelihood of perilous outcomes.
For Democrats and independents, there is much to fear. If Trump loses in 2020, I believe that he will challenge the results and claim (as he did in 2016) that large-scale voter fraud had occurred. With a complicit Republican Party at his side, Trump will likely have the Justice Department—in which he has installed a hyper-loyalist as attorney general—sue the states in which fraud allegedly took place and force the issue to the Supreme Court, which he has tilted far to the right, with the addition of two new ultra-conservative justices.
Be prepared: The travesty of Bush/Gore 2000 may well rear its ugly head once again.